Archive for April, 2010


Thought’s…on “rank”

Been thinking on this as a recent article I read was discussing ” BlackBelt Factory ” schools that issue a B.B. in 2.5 years (average time) or sell 3-4 year ” B.B. Programs “. I have certainly known of places like these, but I have been consistantly displeased with the caliber of ” martial artist ” these sort of places turn out. They are also notorious for handing out B.B. rank to 6 year olds that began ” training ” when they were 3 years old. Sorry, but there is not a child alive that has the cognitive ability to truly grasp what is going on conceptually in any so called system of  ” martial arts “.  ( It is for this reason that I accept no student younger than age 7 at my school .)  There are far more adult practitoners walking around dojo’s wearing a B.B. that don’t have a clue as to the what, how, and why of their ” martial art ” than do have a clue, never mind a 6 year old. And, truly, any parent who believes that their 6 year old B.B. can defend themselves against the average full grown adult is kidding themselves. Yes, there are specialized techniques that a small child can use to attempt to escape from a would be abductor, but these are not taught in a typical modern ” martial arts ” school ( I do teach these techniques in my ” Child / Parent ” self-defense seminar – parent (s) must attend this class ). The classes taught at most modern schools are a watered down version of what is taught to the older kids and the adults (  and the adult classes are mostly watered down versions of the original style as it was practiced in the country of origin! I have known of schools that don’t teach such things as elbow strikes because they were considered to be too dangerous! ) The issue I want to address here is toward older teen / adult classes. No true traditional school is going to allow a student to become ( yes, ” become” as the path is a process ) a B.B. or Yellow Sash ( “teacher” level in my school ) in 2.5 years. There is just way too much to learn…not only is it the basics, techniques and forms that one must be adept at, one must be able to perform all these beyond the level of imitation – like a trained chimpanzee. One must really ” know ” both literally and conceptually everything they have learned physically. Beyond this, however, is the idea that “rank”  is just a thing to be achieved for the sake of achieving something – a goal in and of itself.  Back before a Japanese man named Kano first came up with the presently used belt system – later adopted in sash fashion by the Chinese – there was no formal system of rank. Students of a school knew where their place was in the hierarchy, but this place was not advertised on the students waist. In most of the Chinese systems that pre-dated the sashes worn today, there were only three ranks : student, teacher, and master. A practitioner was awarded rank only when the Master  ( DaiShi ) decided that the student had achieved the standard of proficiency and understanding that the Master  required of his students. Always know that ” a student is a reflection of his teacher. ”  Hard core traditionalists such as myself demand a very high standard as I will be judged indirectly through my students by those who witness my students. I tell my adults ( age 16 and older ) not to be concerned with rank at all. If their concern is rank and how quickly they can obtain it, I tell them to leave and go to such and such a school as it is known as a ” B.B. Factory “. They can then go get a B.B. and attempt to impress their friends by stating ” I’m  a Black  Belt “. Their friends will quickly discover the invalidity of that statement if the braggart ever finds himself in a real fight and gets his head handed to him. The path of the Martial Artist should be one of gathering knowledge and never ending exploration. Knowledge is gathered through the instruction of a competant Master. It can also be gathered through one’s own exploration. For instance, the student may purchase a textbook on anatomy. Through study of the book, the student will understand exactly how certain techniques directly effect the human body. This will contribute to the students understanding of ” the how ” a technique such as a wristlock works and better prepare the student to ask meaningful questions of his Master concerning techniques the Master educates the student in using. The student who has chosen the path of the true Martial Artist will never ask his Master when he will be awarded rank. If the Master raises the subject to the student, the student may inquire as to where the Master thinks the student is along the path thereby leaving open to the Master a response. A Master realizes that the student who persists in inquiry as to ” when am I going to be promoted? ” is not yet ready for promotion. This is a thing the student must come to recognize. The Master will percieve in the student that the student has let go of his concern for being awarded an outwardly visible symbol. This is when the student can truly begin to receive the teaching of the Master as the students mind is free of the restraining chains of bondage that are what thoughts of being awarded ” rank ” actually are. Letting go of the consuming cancer of  ” needing to have the outwardly visible symbol to display as proof that I am somebody ”  is one of the most important of a number of  ” letting go of ‘s  ”  in the process of de-cluttering the mind. These ” letting go of  ”  such and such an ” attachment to a thing, material or temporal ”  lead to a state of  ” whole mind ”  allowing the student to progress along the path unfettered someday arriving at a moment when ” Doing ”  such a thing as performing a form becomes ” Being ” the form – the practitoner runs it as it runs the practitioner. If the practioner were to look behind him at a visual representation of the path he has followed, he would see milestones along the way marked by chains of bondage left in the wake of a moment of letting go of an attachment. The chains of bondage at the point of letting go with ones concern as to rank would be a long length of chain indeed.

April 2010